THE TEMPEST, First Folio Shakespeare Festival. In its ambitious inaugural venture into the woods, First Folio gets a lot right: Chris Jensen's huge, raked open-air stage does suggest an enchanted island sailing under the stars, though Bill Ashdown's costumes could take more inspiration from the Bard. Michael Keefe's supple score enhances the songs, and director Alison C. Vesely completes the action efficiently, even magically, in just over two hours.
David Darlow fully registers the sorcerer's resignation before the greater power of love and the lesser power of evil, underlining the inevitability of the reconciliation between tempest-taming Prospero and his assembled enemies. Though he seems distracted and weary in the opening exposition, Darlow stints nothing in Prospero's magnificent renunciation, Shakespeare's farewell to the stage. No scene ever summed up more stage history, past and future.
Reincarnating innocence and infatuation, Charles Picard and Niki Sarich as Ferdinand and Miranda are fresh as the morn. Less successful are Kathryn Ann Rosen as a pretty, vacuous Ariel; Loring Rose, whose monster Caliban deserves more than one motivation; and Anthony Gruppuso, predictable as the drunken servant Stephano. Charles Likar confers an easy dignity on the usually forgettable geezer Gonzalo, whose delight in the happy ending crosses the footlights and strikes us like a revelation. --Lawrence Bommer